John's Journal
The Coach Is The Story In Chisholm, But Don't Forget The Players11/25/2013
CHISHOLM -- Amid all the hoopla of Bob McDonald's 59th and final season as a boys basketball coach, as well as his nearness to 1,000 career victories, something important can easily be forgotten. His players.

Is there a team in the state that feels more pressure than the Chisholm Bluestreaks? The team needs to win six games in order for McDonald to reach 1,000 wins. He took 994 victories into Friday's season opener against visiting North Woods, and his career victory total remains at 994 going into Tuesday's home game against Virginia.

North Woods beat the Bluestreaks 67-56 in Roels Gymnasium, the bandbox that has been the scene of countless historic moments. The Grizzlies used three-point shooting, quickness and hustle to beat the taller, more experienced Bluestreaks. Darnell Goggleye hit three three-point shots and had 21 points for North Woods, while Aaron Musburger led Chisholm with 27 points and Mitch Rusten had 13.

After the game, I talked with Musburger and Rusten about being seniors on McDonald's last team.

"There's a lot more pressure, I guess, to win," Musburger said. "We definitely don't want to underachieve."

Goal No. 1 for the players is to get their coach to 1,000 victories, said Rusten.

"We want to get it out of the way as early as possible and not have to worry about it any more."

As one of the locals told me before the game, this season could be called The End of The World Tour, "because the world must be ending if Bob isn't going to be coaching anymore."

McDonald remains one of the best-dressed coaches in the game, wearing a suit and tie ... just as his players do on game days. Before Friday's game he chatted with fans and shook hands, wearing a smile. He may pose for more photos than anyone in Minnesota this winter, because everywhere he goes people want to snap a picture. At different times Friday he was asked to stand with young Chisholm students as their parents took photos that will be treasured for a generation or more.

Bob's wife Carol and sister Darlene sat two rows behind the Chisholm bench Friday -- they sit there for every game -- and their third-row seats were at the top of the bleachers on the court level. There are no seats on one end and one side of Roels Gymnasium, with a balcony wrapping around the opposite end and side.

Behind the scorer's table is a small room that is equal parts equipment room, trainers room, snack room and inspiration room. The doors and walls are adorned with handmade signs, courtesy of the coach. One sign is headlined "Some Pertinent Sayings" and includes these words: "Depend on the rabbits foot if you will, but remember, it didn't work for the rabbit."

Other signs are specific to team goals, training rules and even what to wear on your head: "Baseball caps do not constitute cold weather headgear. Show some class and be a good example."

The Bluestreaks' mood was downcast after the loss to North Woods. McDonald spent a long time in the locker room with his team afterwards.

Rusten said, "We've got to do a better job of protecting against transition and guarding the perimeter. We gave up too many wide open shots and they knocked them down. Credit to them."

McDonald did not do much smiling during the game. After the final horn, he said, "This reminds me of a movie: Nightmare on Elm Street" He was, however, smiling as he spoke.

He smiled and shook hands with all the players and coaches from North Woods, complementing them on their victory. After McDonald emerged from the locker room, I asked him about the pressure his players face this season. He has never mentioned 1,000 wins to his team, but he knows they feel pressure and he wishes they didn't.

"I've been around a long time and they don't have to placate me in any way," McDonald said. "I know what they're capable of. I mean, with this outfit, six games to me is zilch. Why put all the eggs in one basket and six games, when you're playing 26? They don't realize that and they're in a hurry. It affects them.

"I'm thankful I have kids like that. But they don't owe me anything. I think it's grand that they're playing for me. They don't have to bow to me and think they have to placate every little whim."

The players know their coach is a legend, they know how long he's been coaching and they know how rare 1,000 career victories is; according to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book, only 12 boys basketball coaches in the nation have reached 1,000.

"Obviously he's been doing the same things for 59 years and they've been producing results," Rusten said. "We've got to do what he says and listen to him and not try and question him. Because he's obviously forgotten a lot more about basketball than we will ever know.

"It's an honor to be on his last team."

--To see a photo gallery from Friday's game in Chisholm (including the back-room signs), go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 219
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,732
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Who Will Be Next Old Dutch Athlete of the Week? And Team Of The Week?11/24/2013
Nominations are open for the Old Dutch Athlete of the Week award, as well as the Old Dutch Team of the Week award. Read all the details by clicking here.
Congrats To The Old Dutch Athlete And Team Of The Week11/23/2013
Jeremy Jost, a junior at Robbinsdale Armstrong who plays on the Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka Robins adapted soccer team, is the Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week.
Jeremy was one of the unsung for the Robins, who won their sixth consecutive state championship in the physically impaired division of the adapted soccer state tournament.

He played a vital role in limiting scoring chances by the Robins' opponents all weekend long, especially in the state championship game. Jeremy plays a defensive position in the back half of the court to assist the goalkeeper, and is not typically a high-scoring player. But he had a great weekend offensively, scoring seven goals and three assists for the tournament, including the vital game-tying goal with 2:47 left in the championship game.

In addition, Jeremy specifically requested to defer a spot on the all-tournament team, if nominated, as he felt he had teammates more deserving of the recognition than himself... a very selfless act!

Congratulations to Jeremy Jost for being this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week!

The Old Dutch High School Team of the Week is the Chatfield Gophers football team. The Gophers extended their season record to 12-1 with a 41-21 victory over Hawley in the Class 2A semifinals at the Metrodome. They will meet Minneota for the state title on Friday, marking the first time Chatfield has been in the Prep Bowl since a championship threepeat from 1994 through 1996.

The Gophers made it to the state tournament with a Section 1 championship game victory over Caledonia, which had won five of the last six 2A state titles.

Congratulations to the Chatfield High School Football Team for being this week's Old Dutch High School Team of the Week!
Mankato West Has A Nack (Or Two) For Swimming And Smiles11/20/2013
On a day when Section 1 reigned supreme at the Class 1A state swimming and diving championships, few teams were happier than the girls from Mankato West. The Scarlets finished a distance second in the team race to Visitation, but the smiles told the story at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

And a big part of the story was the Nack sisters, senior Danielle and junior Chantal (pictured). What kind of day did the Nacks have? Danielle won her second straight state title in the 50 freestyle and her third title in the 100 butterfly, while Chantal won her second gold medal in the 200 freestyle and also won the 500 freestyle. In addition to that, the Nacks teamed with Madison Bacon and Rachel Phinney to win the 200 freestyle relay.

Visitation won its first team title since it won four consecutive state championships from 2005 through 2008. The Blazers, from Mendota Heights, finished with 300 points, getting first-place finishes by Abbie Dolan in the 100 freestyle and two relay teams: Caroline Gaertner, Heather Farley, Emily Kishish and Lorelei Gaertner in the 200 medley relay and Caroline Gaertner, Lorelei Gaertner, Emily Connors and Dolan in the 400 freestyle relay (in a 1A meet record time).

Mankato West was second with 168 points, followed by Sartell-St. Stephen with 161, Hutchinson with 131 and Albert Lea with 130.

Wednesday marked the end of Danielle Nack high school swimming career, but her college swimming will take place at the same venue because she will attend the University of Minnesota.

Her younger sister said the state meet experience was “really cool. But it’s also kind of sad that it’s the last high school meet with my sister. It’s been a blast.”

The Scarlets’ victory in the 200 freestyle relay was a big thrill, especially considering that West had only the fifth-fastest time in Tuesday’s preliminaries.

“We had finished second four times in the relay, and to come out of fifth and take first is awesome,” said coach Dave Burgess.

Other Class 1A champions (all from Section 1)…

--Albert Lea sophomore Lindsey Horejsi, who set a 1A meet record in the 200 individual medley on Tuesday, won the event Wednesday in a slightly slower time. She also won the 100 breaststroke.

-- Northfield junior Bailey DuPay captured the 1-meter diving state title for the third year in a row.

--Cecilia Hake, a senior from Faribault, won the 100 backstroke.

CLASS 2A HIGHLIGHTS

--In the 200 medley relay, the Chanhassen team of Zoe Avestruz, Bridgette Grobe, Kaia Grobe and Kylie Dahlgren broke the all-time meet record for the second day in a row, winning in 1:41.96. Chanhassen also won the 400 freestyle relay in a state-record time of 3:25.69.

--Edina set an all-time meet record in the 200 freestyle relay. The team of Amelia Anderson, Olivia Anderson, Emma Wittmer and Rachel Wittmer won in 1:34.06.

--Chanhassen junior Kaia Grobe captured her third consecutive state title in the 100 freestyle.

--Edina junior Olivia Anderson won the 100 breaststroke for the third year in a row.

--Chanhassen junior Zoe Avestruz won her second straight state title in two events, the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

--Edina ninth-grader Rachel Wittmer won the 50 freestyle after finishing in a third-place tie in the prelims. Placing third in the finals was two-time champion Kaia Grobe.

--Wayzata won its first state team title, finishing with 275 points. Next were Minnetonka 232, Edina 221, Stillwater 206 and Chanhassen 197.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 6 for the state swimming tournament, 35 for the fall state tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 217
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,252
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Day Of Caring At Underwood Shows Community Spirit11/18/2013
Earlier this month, a very special all-school day was held in Underwood, a small town near Fergus Falls. Underwood’s “Day of Caring” promotes efforts to assist students in giving back to their community by performing service projects around town and the area.

Students in kindergarten through sixth grade, grouped by classrooms, went to local nursing homes, assisted living centers, food shelves and state parks, where they visited the elderly, played cards, sang songs and had a wonderful day.

Older students, in grades 7 through 12, were divided into 22 teams. Those teams performed more physical projects, including raking yards, cleaning house gutters, washing windows, planting grass, cleaning areas around the school grounds and creating and completing projects at local day-care facilities.

The students had a fun experience, working together to help others and make new friends. One elderly man offered to pay the students for raking his yard, but he settled for taking a photo of the students with his phone to show to his wife when she got home. One group raked five yards and ran out of leaf bags three times.

Some of the younger students made cards and art projects that they gave to elderly residents. A group of fourth-grade students was excited to meet a veteran who is 102 years old, and residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers were delighted to hear the children sing to them.

“The Day of Caring was fantastic,” said John Hamann, the school principal for grades 5 through 12 at Underwood. “Our students really worked hard, never complained, and showed that they care about people in our community.”

Dean of students Brian Hovland and school counselor Jennifer Whipple, who put the project together, “did an excellent job, from creating the groups, finding places for kids to go, dividing the town up into sections for cleaning ... they really stepped forward and did a nice job,” said Hamann.

“Everything that we do comes down to building and maintaining relationships with people,” Hamann said. “My hope is that the community and our students continue to build on that bond that makes Underwood so special.”